If you’ve been keeping up with our countdown to the first Kanas football game of the 2019 season, you know by now that KU is switching up its defensive identity from a 4-2-5 to a 3-4 base. After all, at the very least it’s been mentioned here, here, here, and here.
In stark contrast to the front seven, Kansas returns nearly every member of the secondary unit that saw action from last season, including all four starters. Let’s take a look at what Miles has to work with here.
Cause for Concern
I suppose the things I’m most concerned about are things that the secondary really can’t control. All of the turnover in the front seven is a concern. The secondary does have a new position coach and scheme, so if that is slow to take, the conference opener against West Virginia could be... not good.
Cause for Optimism
Kansas is loaded with talent and experience in this group. Per Pro Football Focus, KU has the top two safeties in the Big 12 in Mike Lee and Bryce Torneden. Corione Harris and Hasan Defense return to lock down the corner positions, with Kyle Mayberry and Elmore Hempstead back to provide relief when needed. Kansas also welcomes in some promising freshmen in Kenny Logan, Valerian Agbaw, and Jayden Russell.
CB - SO Corione Harris / SR Elmore Hempstead
CB - SR Hasan Defense / JR Kyle Mayberry
S - SR Mike Lee / SR Shaquille Richmond
S - SR Bryce Torneden / JR Ricky Thomas
Yes, the secondary will be senior-laden this year, but even so, Harris, Mayberry, and Thomas should be back for 2020 to go along with the talent coming in this year that this staff should be able to develop and possibly even redshirt.
The defensive backs are coached by Chevis Jackson, while Clint Bowen is officially the safeties coach. Bowen has been the safeties coach three times before at KU, from 2003-2009 under Mark Mangino, 2012 under Weis, and 2015-2016 under Beaty. (Cassius Sendish coached the safeties each of the last two years.)
Chevis Jackson comes to KU from Ball State after serving previously as a graduate assistant under Miles at LSU. He was a three-year starter at CB for LSU under Miles and became a third-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
There’s a lot to be excited about in this group. although the question still remains - can the front seven get some pressure on opposing quarterbacks? Even the best corners can’t cover for more than a few seconds, although the talent here should help out the defense as a whole.
Led by Mike Lee, this unit should be an opportunistic, big hitting group that should come up with plenty of turnovers and hopefully, with a little luck, some highlight-reel defensive TDs.